Fidesz politician buys 49% share in MKB Bank

Fidesz politician Lőrinc Mészáros, a plumber by trade and the mayor of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s tiny home town of Felcsút, has acquired a 49% share in Hungary’s MKB Bank–the fourth largest commercial financial institution in the country. Mr. Mészáros’ company, the Konzum Befektetési Alapkezelő, bought 45% of the bank’s shares and approval is imminent to acquire an additional 4%.  As our readers will recall, last week Mr. Mészáros’ company won a 28 billion forint bid to build a new bridge over the Danube. One month earlier, in April 2017, Mr. Mészáros’ other company, Mészáros Konzum Zrt, bought one of Hungary’s largest travel agencies, called Balatontourist, which had revenues in excess of 1.7 billion forints in 2016. As well, in October 2016, a firm tied to the Fidesz mayor purchased the media portfolio of Mediaworks, the Austrian publisher that controversially shut down Hungary’s largest circulation left-centre national daily, Népszabadság, just two weeks before selling all of its remaining assets in Hungary to Mr. Mészáros’ company, Opimus Press Zrt.  Mr. Mészáros’s net worth is estimated to have increased by 100 billion forints in a single year.

Lőrinc Mészáros (left) with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Photo: HVG

Mr. Mészáros joins other Fidesz party interests who have scooped up MKB Bank’s shares in the past few months. For instance, the cousin of the Orbán government’s former Minister of the National Economy and the current governor of the Hungarian National Bank, György Matolcsy, purchased a 20.19% share in MKB Bank this past April. At around the same time, a company affiliated with Ádám Balog, Mr. Matolcsy’s personal confidant and former deputy governor of the Hungarian National Bank, acquired a 9.81% share in the commercial bank.

How exactly have Fidesz politicians and party interests taken over the nation’s fourth largest commercial bank? While our readers can undoubtedly draw their own conclusions when the mayor of a village or a former government minister’s relatives somehow acquire such wealth that they are able to gain control over major banks, it is important to remind readers that it was the Orbán government which nationalized MKB Bank in 2014, buying it back from Germany’s BayernLB. As soon as the Hungarian state purchased a controlling stake in the bank, the financial institution was placed under the control of the Prime Minister’s Office. It is highly unusual for a commercial bank, nationalized by the state, to be brought under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Less than three years later, Fidesz party politicians and party interests have gained a controlling stake in the bank.

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